Election Surveillance

57 Wake Forest L. Rev. 101 (2022)

60 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2021 Last revised: 3 Jul 2022

Date Written: December 9, 2021


For most of this country’s history we have relied on human eyes and ears to oversee our systems of elections. Modern surveillance tools, from cell phones to video streaming platforms, are now cheap and ubiquitous. Technology holds great promise to increase election transparency. But the 2020 election confirmed what has become quite clear: the use of technology to record election processes does not always serve the goal of reassuring the public of the integrity of elections; it may do the opposite. As legislatures around the country reexamine the rules governing elections, an underexplored question is whether election surveillance should be promoted or prohibited. Important questions like when, if ever, observers and voters should be allowed to record during elections remain unanswered. Who (and what) are the targets of such surveillance and what harms and benefits result? Should states prohibit or encourage election surveillance? How can election surveillance—including election surveillance conducted by election officials—improve public confidence in election outcomes and reduce rather than stoke misinformation? As historic levels of public mistrust of election outcomes threaten American democracy, Election Surveillance takes up these urgent questions.

Keywords: election, vote, surveillance, transparency, privacy, polling place, co-veillance, sousveillance, voter intimidation, democracy, First Amendment, technology, cell phone, camera, ballot integrity, voter protection, candidate, political party, poll watcher, election observation, election official

Suggested Citation

Green, Rebecca, Election Surveillance (December 9, 2021). 57 Wake Forest L. Rev. 101 (2022), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3982460 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3982460

Rebecca Green (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States
(757) 221-3851 (Phone)

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